Most Iconic Skateboards of the 1980's?

There have been others who have created lists (always a risky business) of the most iconic skateboards of the 1980's of course, but let's face it, these things are rather subjective -- and I am going to put it out there right from the get-go: my list will be no different. What's the objective criteria from which to make such a judgement after all? Do we consider it from the perspective of board sales for example? Do you approach it from the perspective of the iconic value of the art itself? Or do you perhaps consider the particular popularity of the skater who was the namesake of the board?

With regard the popularity of the skater, this could be a consideration but on the other hand not every bit of popular 80's skate art was attached to a particular skater; some were team/brand decks. Further, the popularity of a particular skater is one thing, but it doesn't necessarily tell us which boards are the most iconic. The popularity of the skater surely weighs into things -- after all that is going to draw people to their board -- but it only takes us so far.

The volume of sales for particular boards may have some relevance to the question -- after all, boards that sold well were certainly more likely to be visible on the street, in the skateboard shops and in the skate magazines and insofar as something is more visible it is more likely to become iconic.  So here again we seem to find a relevant consideration some of the time, but certainly not all of the time. Mass production can also churn out, to paraphrase Craig Stecyk, a cheap piece of garbage that no one particularly cares about.

So then, what of the art itself? It certainly has to factor in to say the least. The work of Jim Philips at Santa Cruz, VCJ at Powell Peralta, or of Bernie Tostenson; these are all examples of great skate artists who produced some fantastic pieces of skate art, yet even here we cannot simply utilize that as the sole criteria. Simply because something is good, maybe even great, skate art, doesn't necessarily translate into it being iconic. Take Tostenson. His work was among some of the finest out there; a master of the screen printing process, he created some of the most complex pieces of skate art to ever exist. What's more, Tostenson had an artistic style that closely mirrored that of another master illustrator: Robert Crumb.  Despite all that, Tostenson's work is not likely to be familiar to many and that certainly puts a significant strike against it as far as being iconic is concerned.

This raises an important point. Being "iconic" doesn't necessarily mean being the best or the greatest, so when you consider the list below, do factor that in. Being iconic simply refers to that which is the most recognizable and popularly identified with a particular era and its character.

To turn back to our question of a criteria for determining the icons of the 80's skateboard era then, where we seem to end up is a combination of some or all of the aforementioned factors. The particular skater may influence, so might the art, and so too might the number of decks that were out there.  If we had a board which sold very well, that was attached to an immensely popular skater or brand, and which had particularly good or distinctive board art, then we seem closer at least to some sort of criteria that might help us in determining the most iconic.

So with that in mind, here are my "top 4" for what I would consider the most iconic skateboards of the 1980's.

#4 - Vision Mark "Gator" Rogowski

Gator was certainly was of the most high profile skaters of the 1980's, which would lend itself to a high volume of board sales, something this board indeed had. He, along with the Gonz, were the staples of the Vision brand in those days. Of course, Gator's former prominence would later turn to infamy after his admission and conviction in the assault, rape and murder of a young woman in the early 1990's.

Despite the transgressions of this board's namesake however, this deck, which was designed by Greg Evans, surely stands as one of the iconic of the 1980's -- showing that a deck design doesn't have to be particularly graphically complicated, irreverent or controversial in content to become popular.  What the board lacks in graphical complexity, however, it often makes up for in bright and varied colorways.

Admittedly the Vision Gator doesn't do a whole lot for me personally, but I cannot deny just how iconic that Vision swirl is.
#3 - Rob Roskopp Face

Santa Cruz had some of the most stylistically recognizable deck art out there in the 1980's, all due to the amazing work of Jim Phillips.  Phillips work is iconic in its own right and has been the subject of various knock-off's over the years -- a testament to his immense artistic influence. If there were any one artist who, taken on art alone, is identifiable with skateboarding in the 1980's, it has to be Jim Phillips. 

The Rob Roskopp face is one of those decks that just sticks with you. It has a strong graphic design presence. Roskopp was himself an immensely popular skater as well and the Roskopp series of decks was one of the all time, best selling series of decks at NHS -- so there is that combination once again.

This particular design has seen various reincarnations over the years, which I think testifies to the reality of just how iconic this deck is.
#2 - Vision Psycho Stick

Vision's famed "Psycho Stick," designed by Andy Takakjian, is the board that single-handedly eliminates for me the popularity of the skater as a requirement in ascertaining how iconic a board was and is. There is, of course, no particular skater attached to the Psycho Stick. It's a team deck.

This particular deck's iconic status seems to rest on its unique board shape, it's utterly classic (and utterly 80's) board art, as well as its bright colours. Without a popular skater attached to this board to draw interest, it relies on brand name appeal and also on factors like art and design to succeed -- as well as good marketing.
#1 - Tony Hawk, Chicken Skull

Did anyone expect that this wouldn't be #1?  It almost seems a cliche to list it as number one but that's precisely because this board was (and is) so iconic. Even back in the 80's itself it was an icon. 

It certainly meets our triple criteria. It was attached to a popular brand, a popular skater, it sold immense numbers of boards, it appeared all the time in skate mags -- and it also helps that the graphic was around for quite awhile.  It is the one of possibly two skateboards (the other is right above) that would most likely transcend the barriers of the skater and non-skater worlds and be recognizable outside the usual crowd.

I should note that I am particularly specifying the bottlenose edition rather than the earlier pig edition which not only lacked the distinctive board shape of the bottlenose, but also the graffiti like effect made up by the various iron crosses that made up the back drop of the board.

The board was designed by VCJ -- Vernon Courtlandt Johnson. 
So then, these are my picks. What would yours be?
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